Monday, March 19, 2018

UC California Naturalist Certification Week 1

It is by coincidence the road leading to the Nature Center at Avalon Canyon operated by the Catalina Island Conservancy (CIC) is also where one finds the Los Angeles County Library branch in the city of Avalon. After arriving early Friday morning on March 16th I thought it apropos to visit the branch. Having not been there before I did not know what to expect--how big is it? is there a local history collection? is there a full-time librarian? is it open?

(click to enlarge photos)
Much to my delight the branch was open--a single room no larger than a studio apartment, very tidily arranged to maximize its physical collection. Immediately drawn to the Catalina Island reference collection, I began to browse. Among a myriad of topics (including paranormal legends of the island, books by local authors, environmental reports, natural history, human history, etc.) I found a most peculiar title about a very brief service offered via courier pigeons in the last decade of the 19th century between Avalon and Los Angeles. As only one of three hundred copies, this author-signed copy is in immaculate shape--a beautifully bound and printed book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it cover to cover. I didn't have much time to speak to any staff as they temporarily shutter the doors for lunch; I departed for my campsite near the nature center to pitch my tent and have my own meal. 

The first class proved to be all I hoped for. The location, facility, instructor, and group of cohorts are all wonderful. I seem to be the only person not affiliated with the island in any direct way. All the other students live or work on the island. Marissa Rodriguez, guest regional coordinator for the program, introduced the concept of "communities of practice" via teleconference. Christen Howell,  director of education at the nature center, provided a short in-person introduction to the concept of interpreting, mentioning the National Association of Interpretation. I am very curious about this concept and continue to ponder its connection to information literacy. 

I am also pondering the connections between naturalists and librarians. Our textbook states, "Naturalists are generalists in the best sense--cross-disciplinary, with knowledge of the system as a whole, not just the pieces .. By becoming a naturalist, you are taking a place in an important tradition of knowledge keepers ... Naturalists make the world accessible to all and bring out our interest in and wonder at nature" (Edelman 13). I also recall the quote I used by Luther Standing Bear (Oglala Lakota) in my 2014 presentation at Library Instruction West: "The world was a library and its books were stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared alike with us, the storms and blessings of the Earth." It is my goal to explore this connection intimately during the course. 

The next morning on my walk to the dock I decided to visit the library again, feeling inspired by my need to choose a capstone project for the course. I introduced myself to Morgan Pershing, library manager. Coincidentally she had hoped to enroll in the CalNat program. Alas, her schedule would not allow it. We found commonality in thinking outside the walls of a library and how to engage patrons in nature. I was elated and we have tentative plans to work together: she mentioned a program called StoryWalk which engages readers while outdoors. I am already over the brim with ideas even if it is a ship that sails after the course is over.

On the ocean heading back to Long Beach I read in my textbook about a variation on the Grinnell method of field observations (Edelman 16). It has inspired me to consider how I might develop a variation which could be adapted to keeping a journal while doing research. I might call it an "information investigation" journal where information is objectively observed and considered in terms of the observer's experience encountering it. Perhaps this can lead to parallel concepts within interpretation.


Edelman, D. S., Merenlender, A., & De, N. G. (2013). The California Naturalist Handbook. University of California Press.

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